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An Outpost by any other Name

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Outposts, control points, forts, whatever the nomenclature may be, what does it take to make them feel special in a video game?

I am talking of course of the increasingly found “bases” in video games that exist to be taken over by the playable character in order to free an area, create a fast travel location or for a pure completionist standpoint. From games such as Assassins Creed Odyssey, The Far Cry series and beyond, these locations have been showing up with mixed criticism as to their necessity and existence. I am hoping to start a discussion that is close to my heart in video games, and that is why does the application of these outposts work well in certain applications, and fall flat in others.

First point of discussion is the repeating nature of their design. While I understand that making a massive open world game lends itself to repeated patterns, games such as AC Odyssey have a total of four or so outpost types which repeat nearly endlessly across a massive landscape. This creates a frustrating effort where each encounter becomes stale and less enjoyable each time. Simply viewing the map and seeing the word outpost over a location made me want to steer clear. This boils down to quality over quantity. On the other hand, if you look at a game that does it right, Horizon Zero Dawn, you see far fewer outposts that having varied size and layout which gives them a sense of belonging in the environment. Between the human held camps and the machine dominated areas in the wild, the variance in enemy type also allows for less repeated and stale environments making the experience more enjoyable.

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My second point is the overall scale of difficulty that is reflected at these outposts. Once again we look to AC Odyssey which gives no change in difficulty, save for its level system which is a whole other headache I will be avoiding here. Throughout a video game, your character gets stronger, has better weapons and you as the player have more experience with the threats of the game. So when games create more difficult outposts, once again see Horizon Zero Dawn, the player never truly knows what they are walking into when they breach the outer walls in an attempt to free the area. While I understand the primary issue with this is the free to go where you will mechanic most open world games give, some games have done it beautifully so.

I know this may seem rambling at times but I would love to hear what elements you feel make these outposts special. Should they be removed entirely? What can be done to prevent stale and repetitive gameplay in regards solely to outposts? Am I crazy… probably.

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